The Horse Capital of the World ™
A short 30-minute drive south of Gainesville, Ocala is The Horse Capital of the World™, where thoroughbred horse farms dot the majestic live oak landscape. In the center of town, Ocala is a growing city with a traditional square, antique shops and a hometown feel.
Thanks to the rich limestone soil that grows lush and nutritious grass, and with the opening of the new World Equestrian Center, the horse racing industry has a year-round home in Ocala. Two Triple Crown winners have ties to Ocala as their breeding or training grounds.
As nature created an idyllic spot for the equestrian set, other outdoor activities are plentiful. Bordered on the east by the Ocala National Forest and the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers, the Ocala region is a nature lover’s paradise. Fishing, hiking, kayaking and boating activities are easy to find and enjoy throughout Marion County.
The crystal-clear waters of spring-fed rivers are unique to the region and why tourists have ventured up the rivers in steamboats and glassbottom boats since right after the Civil War. The beauty attracted Hollywood to the region, setting the scene for several Tarzan movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon and other mid-century flicks.
America’s Healthiest Hometown®
The Villages, situated in Sumter County, Florida, shares its name with The Villages®, a broader master-planned, age-restricted community that also includes portions of Lake and Marion counties. Also referred to as America’s Healthiest Hometown®, The Villages® offers numerous forms of recreation, including more than 52 golf courses.
Beyond the golf courses and recreation centers, The Villages® also operates a variety of softball fields, a polo stadium and a woodworking shop, plus two, 17-lane outdoor target archery ranges. Nightly activities are held in the community’s three town squares: Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, Spanish Springs Town Square and Brownwood Paddock Square.
Home to the Lakefront City
Leesburg is a progressive city of more than 21,000 residents. Known as the “Lakefront City,” Leesburg is a central hub for commerce in Lake County, attracting 50,000 people to work each weekday. Venetian Gardens, a 64-acre park on beautiful Lake Harris, is home to Rogers Park, Kids Korner playground, Splash Pad and Venetian Cove Marina. The Parks and Recreation Department oversees many youth and adult sports leagues as well as other enrichment and instructional programs.
Year-round events and festivals such as the Black Heritage Festival, Mardi Gras, the Leesburg Art Festival, Bikefest and Fourth of July and Christmas activities attract thousands of visitors each year. There are also numerous sporting events, such as bass fishing and softball tournaments. The Leesburg Lightning, a team in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, plays baseball each summer at historic Pat Thomas Stadium.